Mistletoe Mistress by Davidson Nicola

Mistletoe Mistress by Davidson Nicola

Author:Davidson, Nicola
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 2019-04-24T16:00:00+00:00

Chapter 4

With every passing hour, Rachel intrigued him more.

Leaning back in his chair, his stomach full to bursting after a plentiful Christmas supper of beef, boar’s head, a mix of vegetables, plum pudding soaked in brandy and cream, and mulled wine, Arran watched her conversing with another guest while almost unconsciously stacking plates and cutlery.

Rachel had told him she’d fallen on hard times. Which was entirely plausible, but still didn’t feel like the whole truth. Her passionate defense of foundlings seemed very personal, as though she had attended such a school rather than merely assisted at one, and the way she tidied spoke of experience and great ease in dealing with many, many mouths to feed. Much more than a small household. He wanted to say something, like how much he admired those who started with little and worked hard to advance themselves. Back in his own parish he’d seen many examples with tenant farmers and small enterprises, and had even started a fund to assist in the purchase of newer tools. His next lofty goal was to ensure that every child on his lands, boy or girl, could read and write. And yet he could be wrong, because in other ways, Rachel was so transparently honest. Her emotions danced across her face, from the way she smiled and laughed, to her occasional uncertainty in the company of wealthy guests, to her irritation with boorish behavior.

“Ahem! Ladies and gentlemen!”

Arran turned to see the innkeeper Mr. Vine clapping his hands together at the front of the dining room.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a treat in store. Mrs. Vine has organized a great many activities for your amusement on this holiest of days, where we celebrate the birth of our Lord. Gentlemen, if you will assist me in moving the trestle tables to one side, we shall be able to set up each parlor game.”

“Parlor games?” called one giant bear of a laborer. “May as well give up now, you lot, I am the undisputed village champion these three years past.”

“The game isn’t drinking, you reprobate,” said the slender redheaded woman next to him, and the dining room erupted in laughter.

Mr. Vine shushed the crowd once more. “Now, for those of you passing through, we believe Christmas to be a time of goodwill and charity, so each parlor game will have a small entry fee of sixpence. This money helps to buy books for our village school. There will be music and cards and dancing, and on the west wall, in true Queen’s Standard tradition, mummers will perform, and also teach you how to juggle.”

“Oh! I love to dance,” said Rachel, her face lighting up beside him. “And what a clever idea to raise funds for the school.”

Arran shifted in his chair. While his family had always acknowledged Christmas with a sumptuous supper, attending church had been the limit of activities. This was far out of his realm of expertise. He would donate a sizeable fee to the school, as long as


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